Apartment balcony collapses twice in 24 hours

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by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

khou.com

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 8:12 PM

AUSTIN, Texas-- Twenty-five people were evacuated Wednesday night after a balcony shook loose at an apartment complex in Southeast Austin. The families can't return until the damage is repaired.

Investigators say the balcony first came loose Wednesday evening at the Woodbridge Apartments located at 1900 Burton Drive near Oltorf.  A resident called 911 after he noticed a large chunk of the walkway balcony fall down.

"We were standing on it and felt it swaying, then it started sagging in the middle. I immediately called 911," said Keith Johnson, a man who lives on the second floor.

Firefighters were already on the scene when the balcony collapsed. No one was injured.

A second dramatic moment was caught on tape Thursday. Just before noon, more of the apartment balcony collapsed right in front of KVUE's cameras. KVUE photojournalist Erin Coker was standing about five feet away from the apartment complex when the balcony gave way and collapsed.

With more than 50 complaints filed against the complex, people who live there say they knew something like this would happen.

"There was always standing water. The concrete up there was deteriorating," said Johnson.

"They don't care. They don't care," said tenant Mario Lopez, talking about his landlord. "I'm sure there's a lawyer who would love to take this case."

City Code Enforcement Assistant Director Ron Potts says the complaints were minor except for one in the 1990s. Inspectors found the stairwell was dangerous. The apartment corrected the problem and continues renting units.

The city does not regularly inspect apartments and condos.

"We want to change that. We're asking for money to hire four inspectors who will proactively look at apartments and multi-family dwellings. That way we don't have to always react to bad situations," said Potts.

The American Red Cross handed out water and snacks. Volunteers gave about a dozen people enough money for a hotel room for one night only.

"It will be up to the apartment managers to create a long-term solution for these families," said Sara Kennedy, the regional spokesperson for the American Red Cross - Central Region.

For now, it's up to the families to find a place to stay. KVUE asked the property manager what would happen. She said the regional manager was off-site but would return soon. Otherwise, she said she could not comment.

According to court records, the property is managed by Capstone Real Estate Services. Messages to that office have not yet been returned.

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